Sunday, 22 March 2015

The sweetness of Southern India circuit - (Day 8 afternoon cont.) - UNESCO designated group of Monuments - The Shore Temple; the Krishna Cave Temple and the open air rock cut bas relief - The descent of the Ganges, Mahabalipuram - The 18th of February 2015

We headed towards the famed Shore Temple complex comprising two structural shrines - the Kshatriya Simesvara (East) and the Rajasimhesvara (West). Having been erected half a century after the Rathas under the reign of the Pallava King Rajasimha Narasimavarmn II it is enclosed within a compound wall studded with images of Nandi (the vehicle of Shiva). Its main Temple is a stepped pyramidal tower, which was naturally the feature that most caught our attention.

Located right on the shores of the Indian Ocean it is said to have sustained strong waves and tsunamis.

I found it hard to photograph is interior galleries with thousands of sculptures dedicated to the glory of Shiva, having therefore decided to concentrate on its exterior beauty instead.

We then moved onto the rock cave Temples area, having started by the Krishna cave Temple dating to the mid-seventh century. Its decorated columns led to a hall with sculpted panels that are said to bring out the myth of Krishna seen lifting the Govardhana hill to protect the  cowherds and the milk maids from heavy rain and floods.
Krishna (flanked by three females to his right, one believed to be Rahda, his childhood lover) could be seen with the finger of his left hand up saving the deluge caused by Indra, who was annoyed with the people of the village for having discontinued the celebration of a festival in his honour. People with their cattle were to be seen taking shelter under the mountain. Another representation saw Shiva in a joyous mood with the milkmaids.
Other represented  village scenes depicted an elderly person carrying a child on his shoulders, cowherds milking a  cow, a cow licking the calf, milkmaids with water pots on their heads, a child hugging her mother, a woodcutter walking with an axe, a milkmaid carrying a milk pot and a rolled mat or bundle of grass on her head, Krishna playing flute and even  a standing bull.

Next to it stood the huge open air relief carved in two monolithic rock boulders depicting the descent of the sacred river Ganges to earth from the heavens led by Bhagiratha. This bas-relief is also known as Arjuna's Penance, because of it being portrayed in the rock cut sculpture.

The total number of carvings are said to be 146 with monkeys copying the yogic scenes of the sages, large groups of  kinnaras (anthropomorphic forms of half human half bird) in the upper portion representing the Indic ethos with the male kinnara holding a musical instrument and the female kinnara holding a cymbal.
Shiva is carved in front of the river (to the right of the cleft) in a standing posture with Bhagiratha, the sage, standing on one leg offering him prayers (in another interpretation who is standing on one leg is said to be Arjuna performing an austerity Tapas to receive aid in fighting the Mahabharata war). Shiva is also seen with a weapon.
Carvings of the divine nagas can be seen swimming in the river and Ganga (in anthropomorphic form of serpent and human) descending from the heavens. The elephants are said to represent a herd moving towards the river to drink water.
Wild lions and rams, interpreted as representing the Himalayan habitat can also be seen. Hunters and hunting scenes are part of the panel with hunters with bows, others hiding under trees and yet others carrying hunted animals;
One of the last carvings pertaining to this ensemble, (located out of the rock relief) was a monkey picking lice off another monkey.

There isn't much to say as I believe images speak for themselves. I was really impressed, specifically because, being someone who likes and focuses on details, there were many of those for me to get mesmerised by.


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